Succession's Biggest Shake-Up Yet Is An Evil, Brilliant Masterstroke

This post contains major spoilers for "Succession" season 4, episode 3 aired Sunday, April 9, 2023.

On the latest episode of "Succession," misleadingly titled "Connor's Wedding," Logan Roy (Brian Cox) died, leaving the Waystar Royco throne vacant. While flying to Sweden to negotiate the closing of a sale with Lukas Matsson (Alexander Skarsgård), Logan took short of breath and then died of an apparent heart attack.

Logan's ill health has been a recurring subject on the show — the very first episode ended with him suffering a stroke, he came down with a UTI in season 3's "Retired Janitors of Idaho," and in the season 4 premiere, "The Munsters," he was musing on his mortality. Still, no one in the show or watching it expected him to go out like this.

After all, Logan was the center of "Succession" and Cox's sheer ferocity as an actor trumped even his always-excellent co-stars. But he didn't even get a death scene. We last see Logan boarding the plane in this episode and then his heart attack happens offscreen. When Tom Wambsgans (Matthew Macfadyen) calls Kendall (Jeremy Strong), Roman (Kieran Culkin), and Shiv Roy (Sarah Snook) to let them — and the audience — know what's happened, Logan's already unconscious.

On the episode's aftershow, series creator Jesse Armstrong said of the lack of a death scene for Logan: "We wanted to capture a feeling of death that people experience in the modern era of separation of communication over phone and email." There's another effect too: the viewer is put in the exact circumstances as Logan's children, not getting to say goodbye to him and having to process what's happened with no warning.

But frankly, we shouldn't be surprised that we are so surprised. "Succession" has never been a show that opts for easy resolution or conventional climaxes.

The status quo and the anticlimax

Like its HBO forebear "The Sopranos," "Succession" loves a good anticlimax. Carefully laid plans can be destroyed out of the blue. Back in season 1, episode 6 "Which Side Are You On?," Kendall's attempted vote of no confidence on Logan fails because he gets stuck in traffic. Afterward, Kendall tries for a hostile takeover of Waystar Royco instead, but that fails too when in the season 1 finale, "Nobody Is Ever Missing," he manslaughters a waiter while driving to obtain drugs. Instead, he winds up indebted to his father as Logan arranges a cover-up.

Kendall does turn on his father in the season 2 finale, "This Is Not for Tears," refusing to be the "blood sacrifice" taking the fall for the systemic abuses in Waystar Royco's cruise division. Between that and the impending board vote for control of Waystar Royco, season 3 began with the sense that Logan might face consequences or even be toppled. That season's episode 3, "The Disruption," even ended with the FBI raiding Waystar offices. However, as the season went on, it became clearer and clearer that wasn't going to happen.

What does make Logan's death feel different is that promises for change are rarely fulfilled on "Succession." As we've written before at /Film, "Succession" is a show about how difficult disrupting the status quo is. In the end, Logan's power was so entrenched that only death itself could bring him down. However, Logan being gone actually preserves the nature of his relationships with his children. Logan's eldest, Connor (Alan Ruck), laments he never got the chance to make his father proud — Logan was in the process of skipping his son's wedding when he died, after all. Connor's half-siblings probably feel the same.

Always unresolved

A month and a half back, when Jesse Armstrong revealed the show was coming to an end, he said, "There is a promise in the title of 'Succession.'" When the series began, Logan's reign was nearing its end. While he stubbornly hung onto power, his children all made plays to take the throne. What Kendall, Shiv, and Roy all really wanted was their father's approval, though. There'd be no greater sign of having that than if he entrusted them with his favorite child — Waystar Royco. Now even if one of them does become their father's successor, it won't be because Logan deemed them so.

Tom gives the three siblings a chance to say their last words to Logan over the phone in the slim chance he can hear them. Roman, Kendall, and then Shiv all stumble over their words. Like many abuse victims, the Roy siblings all hoped that if they loved their father, he'd respond in kind. So it's fitting that while they're tearing up with their protestations of love, Logan is silent — and now always will be.

In hindsight, it makes sense that the prior episode, "The Rehearsal," denied a chance of resolution between Logan and his children. In the karaoke bar, Logan actually tried to reach out and make amends, even offering a vague apology for his past behavior. Kendall and Shiv weren't having it, rightfully calling it insufficient recompense for Logan's past abuse. Roman, the most codependent of the siblings, was more receptive and ended up being the last to speak with Logan. However, his father had gone back to manipulating "Romulus," offering hints of love only to bend Roman to his will.

It's unclear where "Succession" season 4 goes from here, but the "love sponges" will never get the one thing that could've filled the voids in their hearts.

New episodes of "Succession" air on HBO and stream on HBO Max every Sunday at 9 p.m. EST.